Costumed actors performing in the pantomime, Dick Whittington and His Cat

Christmas TV Pantomimes

1960s Christmas TV Pantomimes

Jack, Cinderella and Dick Whittington
 Adam Blackshaw

Screenshot of Ernie Sigley in The Story of Dick Whittington.
Ernie Sigley as Robin in The Story of Dick Whittington, 1966. NFSA title: 1559198

In the early years of Australian television, NWS9 in Adelaide produced an annual Christmas pantomime.

Among the best-remembered of their productions were Cinderella (1962), Jack and the Beanstalk (1964) and The Story of Dick Whittington (1966), and you can watch clips from each of these shows below.

Performers in the NSW9 pantomimes who went on to notable careers included singer and presenter Ernie Sigley (pictured right), actor and comedian Lucky Grills and actor Lionel Williams. The Cinderella (1962) and Aladdin (1963) shows were written and produced by Hal Turner (better known to a generation of Adelaide youngsters as Bobo the Clown).

Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk, 1964. Courtesy: Nine Network. NFSA title: 1559196

The pantomimes produced at NWS9 drew inspiration from an English musical comedy theatre tradition. The pantomime stage shows were popular with children and families and regularly performed around Christmastime.

Part of the comedy tradition was gender-swapping roles, so that women played male parts (like Patricia Harrison as Jack in the above clip) and men played women (see the clip from Cinderella, below).

Dick Whittington

The Story of Dick Whittington, 1966. Courtesy: Nine Network. NFSA title: 1559198

The clip above features David Flatman as Dick Whittington, Pam Western as Alice, Carole Stace as Jenny the Cat and Hedley Cullen as Mr Fitzwarren.

Things didn’t always go to plan in the studio when filming the pantomimes. While making Jack and the Beanstalk, the kitchen hearth belonging to Jack’s mother set fire to the set and filled the studio with smoke.

The cat suit worn by dancer Carole Stace in Dick Whittington was so hot they needed a crew member standing by with a fan to cool her through the eye and nose holes. Unfortunately, the fan also accidentally shaved off the whiskers on the cat costume!


Cinderella, 1962. Courtesy: Nine Network. NFSA title: 1460154

Featured in the above clip from Cinderella are Glenys O'Brien (as Cinderella), Joy Berriman (Prince Charming), Hal Turner (Buttons), Lionel Williams (Maudi) and Kevin Crease (Ethel).

The final broadcast at NWS9’s Tyne Street studios was in 2015. The station relocated to the Adelaide CBD and the old studios were eventually demolished.